Picture: Steve Buissinne/Pixabay
Picture: Steve Buissinne/Pixabay

Teen's boyfriend fatally shot in April. Hours after her graduation, she was, too

By The Washington Post Time of article published Jun 5, 2021

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Marisa Iati

As she prepared to accept her high school diploma on Tuesday, Kennedy Hobbs removed her dark-coloured face mask - a reminder of her pandemic-era senior year without a homecoming dance or pep rallies. She pulled her dark hair into place as she crossed the stage in sparkly silver stilettos and grinned for a photo.

After posing for more pictures in the parking lot of her Jackson, Mississippi, high school, Hobbs made stops at a graduation party and the cemetery where her boyfriend was buried after being fatally shot in April. She lay down her blue honours tassel at his grave, snapped a shot for Instagram and tapped out a caption: "For u baby."

Hobbs, 18, would be killed hours later - shot several times around 10:45 pm at a Texaco gas station on her way to another party. No arrests have been made in the case, and a motive has not been determined, Jackson police spokesman Sam Brown said.

Her killing devastated and outraged Hobbs's family, who said her slaying was indicative of a culture of gun violence that steals too many Black young people. Crime has recently surged in Jackson, a city of about 161 000, with the roughly 128 homicides recorded in 2020 setting a record. The city has logged 57 homicides so far this year, according to Brown.

Hobbs's uncle, William Edwards, said a makeshift memorial for his niece had gone up near the gas pump where she was killed. But he said he hated that the tokens of affection had to be there.

"I see teddy bears and balloons all throughout the city, and that's the problem," he said in an interview. "There's too many memorials throughout this small city."

Hobbs, a vibrant teenager, earned a certificate in waxing at 17 and started doing body waxes for her friends in a shed in their backyard built by her mom. She loved R&B and rap music, and getting dressed up.

Hobbs was considering her college options, and Edwards said she sometimes talked about becoming a teacher like her grandmother and her mother, who teaches math and science in Hobbs's school district.

"Some people," Edward said of Hobbs, "you can see the greatness rising on."

The night that Hobbs was killed, Edwards said she pulled up to the gas station with four friends. Two went inside the convenience store, while another two stayed outside.

A little more than 45 minutes later, Hobbs's mother and uncle arrived at the gas station to find her body splayed between the pumps, Edwards said. Her father had not even arrived back at his home in Southaven, nearly 200 miles north of Jackson, when he got the call that his daughter had been killed.

Surveillance cameras at the gas station were not operating the night of the shooting, police said, and officers are seeking witnesses. Edwards said the family has no answers about what happened - only theories - and believes that the outcry about Hobbs's killing and other street crime should be as fervent as anger over the killings of Black Americans by police officers.

"We will not sit silent and make this normal," Edwards said. "This is not a normal situation."

On Thursday, Jackson police planned to host its first conflict resolution class since the coronavirus outbreak began. The idea, Brown said, was to educate residents on how to solve problems before resorting to gun violence. Staff set up tables in an auditorium, cued up a slide show on a television and waited.

No one ever arrived.

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